Board contest at Nationwide

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THE 3.5 MILLION members of the Nationwide Building Society will soon be receiving voting forms to elect five members of the board.

Five existing members are hoping to be returned to the board, but three 'outsiders' are contesting the election.

The five members standing for re-election include the chairman, Sir Colin Corness, Stuart Errington, chairman of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, and Sheila Heywood, who once stood as an outsider. The others are Alison Carnwath, who was co-opted on to the board and is standing for election for the first time, and Rob Farley.

The trio of challengers are Ben Jacobs and Robert Leng, who have stood unsuccessfully before, and Trevor Harvey, a new candidate.

It is a purely postal vote. Forms go out from 7 June, to be returned by 14 July. The normal turnout is just 4 per cent. 'We would urge people to vote,' a Nationwide spokesman said.

Candidate Trevor Harvey is a former Nationwide branch manager and secretary. Since 1991 he has been director of resources at Ashridge Management College.

He is concerned about the way that building societies seem to be focusing on their customers and forgetting about their members - the owners of the society.

'I would not argue for mutuality come hell or high water. I'm a pragmatist on the issue. Building societies are being encouraged to stay in limbo-land - badged as mutuals but acting as plcs.'

The Fabian Society issued a pamphlet extolling the virtues of mutuality last week.

Towards a Social Economy - trading for a social purpose by Peter Welch and Malcolm Coles says that, despite a rich tradition of mutual-aid organisations which ought to be at the heart of a British social economy, the idea has little meaning in practice for most people.

'A membership unaware of its rights and obligations can lead to a vacuum in accountability . . . many mutuals frequently behave like companies without shareholders.'

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